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Preparing to Learn

This is always an exciting time of year in the academic calender - the results from last year's examinations will have been published and now everyone starts to look to the year to come. This is the first of a series of three articles which deals with how to get the most out of your learning during the forthcoming year. Next month I will look at how to take some of the techniques I have already told you about and apply them to your learning. In November's article I will give you some advice on how to prepare for examinations. This month however, I want to look at how you should prepare yourself for the coming year (or term as the case may be). It does not matter which part of your course you are on, everything that I will talk about here today will be relevant to your success.



I am a big fan of questions and so the first thing you should do as the academic year begins is ask yourself "Why am I doing this course or subject?" It is a very important question to know the answer to because quite often, particularly in our early education we are learning at school because the law requires us to do so. Even when students go to college or university, many times it is because it is just the "done thing" or parental or peer pressure has "assisted" in the reasoning. Even knowing that a good education will help you get a good job is not sufficient. I strongly suggest that you ask yourself this question and as soon as you give yourself an answer, ask yourself "Why?" Then when that answer comes out again, ask yourself "Why?" The reason that you should do this (and keep doing it until you find a satisfactory answer) is so that you can find YOUR reason for taking the course you are on. That reason has to be important to you, very important in fact. "Why?" I hear you ask. Well the reason is that you are more likely to put in effort to achieve something that is important to you and although learning can be fun, academic success does require work. It is the power of your reason that will decide how much effort you are willing to put in.



Another question that is very important to ask yourself is "What grades do I want and why?" The first part is important because you need to have a target to aim for. The reason is also linked to why you are doing the course in the first place and will give you the motivation to put the effort in. My advice to you is that if you want or need B's then aim for A's. Give yourself a margin of error and hey, who knows, you might even get the A's after all. Then once you know the grades that you are going to aim for need to ask yourself a two part question. The first part should be quite easy "How much effort do I need to put in to get the grades that I want?" We all have a good idea of the sort of time it takes to achieve the higher grades based on the amount of time that we have already put into our education. The second part of the question is not quite so easy "Am I willing to put that much effort in?" Now to contradict myself I will say that this is an easy question to answer if YOUR reason for being on your course is important enough to you and your grade goals have real meaning for YOU. However it is highly likely that you have not really considered the earlier questions and that is why this question is quite difficult. I don't mean to be hard on you, I have been where you are and have had the same difficulties getting motivated, but once I did, everything came together just as I planned it to (with the right amount of effort, of course).



The next question that you need to consider is "Do I want to work for a short period every day and accumulate my knowledge gradually or do I want to go for the once-in-a-lifetime mammoth, night before, candle-burning cramming session?" At this stage in the year the answer is quite commonsense and obvious but as we all know the latter option is taken by most (and I have been there too!!). Some of you might thrive on that pressure but I know that some of you don't, yet you will still leave your preparations to the last minute. How can you overcome that problem? Well you need to really understand the possible consequences of last minute cramming and weigh them up against the (now important) reason that you are doing the course in the first place. Your conscience will assist you with the balancing! You will achieve much more by doing little things every single day than by leaving it too late. However, the choice is yours.



The final question that you need to answer is "Am I willing to take responsibility for my education?" Possibly the hardest question to answer because whether you like it or not, your results are your responsibility. Anyone can get an A if they want to, it just might take some longer than others. So you must remember that YOUR GRADES DO NOT DICTATE WHO YOU ARE. If your grades are not good enough for you it just means that you did not have long enough to work at them. If you feel this is a big responsibility to take on then you are right, no one said life was going to be easy. If you don't feel ready for an examination then get ready. If you don't understand something, find someone who can help you understand it. If you think your teacher is not doing his job properly, change to another class. Your education is your responsibility and if the system throws something in the way that affects it, find a way round it.



Now you have decided why you are doing your course and what grades you want. You have decided that you are willing to put the effort in and that you will work every day towards your goals. You have taken responsibility for your results so what next?



Well the thing to do now is to start planning how you are going to do it. What time will you dedicate to study every day? Not a nice question Michael at such an early part of the year! Okay then, how much time will you dedicate to having fun and to your sports and hobbies because you need to have those answers too? I am not going to suggest that you have to spend every minute of the day studying because that will be counter productive. You need to live a balanced life and having fun and indulging in your sports and interests will be as important as the work you will put in. Don't think that this only applies to education because when you get out into the wonderful wide world, the skill of balancing your life will be just as important. Part of the planning process will be a good look at the resources that you have available to you. Do you have all the text books that you need and if not, do you know where you can get hold of them? Are there other sources of information that I can use for example the Internet (I can recommend a good site about Memory and Learning)? What skills should you learn that will assist you for example Mind Mapping, Time Management, Speed Reading? Are there any fellow student who you can team up with to help you with your study? Are there going to be any extra classes laid on in your subjects? If you can gather all of this information then you will begin to feel much more confident that your plans for success will come off.



The final thing that I am going to recommend to you is that you record all of your thoughts that I have stimulated in this article in a journal. During the term add to your journal, ideally every day, with your thoughts and feelings and ideas about how you can improve the way you study. At the front you should have a written statement of your grade goals and the reason why they are so important to you. It is a good idea to review those every day to help you get motivated.



I have given you much to think about here today but if you follow through on my suggestions, you will find that the mental preparation for the year to come will be invaluable.






To ask about any aspect of Accelerated Learning, e-mail himself (at) michaeltipper.com . Due to Michael's hectic schedule, he may not be able to write back, but will do his best to cover the main issues raised, in future articles [more about Michael on the page here].




To ask about any aspect of Accelerated Learning, e-mail himself (at) michaeltipper.com . Due to Michael's hectic schedule, he may not be able to write back, but will do his best to cover the main issues raised, in future articles [more about Michael on the page here].




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